Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: So who has the best designs on our future?
Wednesday 28 July 1999
IF YOU'VE got a low boredom threshold, I think architecture is the ideal profession. I thoroughly enjoy the fact that I can be giving legal advice or financial advice or construction advice or legislation advice and I could be doing any of this for any of the projects we are working on. Apart from the obvious imaginative capability, it is also necessary to be tenacious. This is purely because getting anything built is difficult. The project I most admire at the moment is the Future Systems' Lords cricket ground building. Future Systems has built something completely unlike anything else. What I really like is the fact that it looks pretty much like it did when it started on paper. The architects had the vision to conceptualise something and see it through to its execution.
Terry Farrell and Partners
IT IS a problem for our business that it is becoming more competitive. The two most successful companies in Britain at the moment, Foster and Rogers, are the most competitively aggressive. The poser for the medium- sized companies will be should they keep trying to grow or should they go back to their roots as design-led smaller practices. Information Technology is becoming increasingly more important but it is still important to be a highly original and inventive thinker. I do admire and respect Norman Foster. When he has a commission that suits him, such as Stansted airport, it works extremely well. Piers Gough, from CZWG, and Nigel Coates, of Branson Coates, both do some wonderful work. Coates is good in a way that is extraordinarily extravagant and he gets away with it.
Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners Ltd
MY FAVOURITE moments are sitting with a design team thrashing out a concept for a building. We all throw our ideas on to the table and some very lively discussions take place. The team idea is fundamental. We feed in young people continuously to the practice - the average age is 31 - and we then structure our teams so that they are led by a more experienced architect. I think a great deal of our success has been due to the fact we spend a lot of time in dialogue with our clients to understand their needs. The most satisfying thing is when a client comes back for another building. As far as British contemporaries are concerned, I admire Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, but also Future Systems and Chris Wilkinson for being at the cutting edge.
David Chipperfield Architects
ARCHITECTURE IS an interesting profession as equally successful architects may possess completely different qualities: some can draw extremely well and yet others can't lift a pencil. So there are no defining qualities as such but I do think it helps to be a little screwed up. You've got to have a certain ambition and commitment and application underscored with a healthy amount of inadequacies. I suppose we are all motivated by our inadequacies to a degree. It is important to be able to balance conceptual work with pragmatism, which can be difficult to master. Most of the people I admire are foreign - Alvaro Siza, for example, from Portugal. I do have respect for Richard Rogers and Norman Foster because they've shown that architecture can be important. Inspiration, however, comes from those in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.
John Outram Associates
IF YOU want to succeed as an architect, you need to have a tremendous amount of drive. As it is an all-round business, you need to know something about everything: technique, costs, laws, all sorts. And you need to be able to relate to your clients. I enjoy working in America because the clients tend to take an interest in everything you do. In Europe clients don't want to dive in, they don't enquire. Architecture also tends to favour lateral thinkers. I think most work is very interesting. But I can't say that anyone stands out, though, since the death of Sir James Sterling.
Allies & Morrison
TO BE a success, I think it is important to not be tied to a style or building type. A good architect can turn their hand to anything. The people at the top can do all sorts. Our practice certainly isn't particularly stylised or driven by category. We're not "hi-tech" but what we do is definitely modern. What does matter is whether your building is beautiful. Buildings should be enjoyed. Success only comes provided you have the capacity for self-criticism and the ability to perform all the time. Norman Foster stands out for the consistency of his work. The work of David Chipperfield and Stanton Williams has great integrity. There are probably 10 or 12 practices whose work I respect but none leaps out at me.
IT'S NOT terribly easy to be a good architect. Beyond the design, there are all sorts of pressures involved such as political problems and dealing with and satisfying the client. It is important to retain creative independence in this business. There is never only one way to do something. If creativity disappeared from the profession it would be fundamentally wrong. In many instances, though, this is happening. On every level horrible buildings are going up. An architect needs to listen and express and explain and project the image they believe in to the client. You need to be a politician, a businessman and a creator. Some people have more business acumen, some more political nous. Norman Foster and Richard Rogers can't but stand out in England. Look a little further and there's Jean Nouvel in France whom I admire for his creativity.
Rick Mather Architects
THE MOST exciting aspect of the job for me is the design. The fact that you design something and then actually build something tangible really appeals. I think you can never really have a good project without a good client. If the client is willing to be adventurous, you can come up with unique and different designs. But you do need to find out what the client wants and needs so communication skills are exceptionally important. As is lateral thinking when it comes to problem solving. Nobody really stands out for me apart from the large practices. But I'd pick Henri Ciriani, from Paris, as the architect who most impresses me. His work is in the public realm and he does a great deal of the same kind of work as me. He also teaches and I think it is great that he is giving something back to the profession.
ARCHITECTURE IS about making the creative leap from a list of requirements to a physical object. Its irony is that the part you crave (the design and invention; imagining the raw materials as something tangible) is fantastically painful. It is such an unpleasant process, but it is what I need like a fix. Although the process may be difficult, the pleasure comes in seeing the whole thing come together and sing. The most thoughtful clever and brilliant conceptualising architect in my opinion is my partner at CZWG, Rex Wilkinson. He is a great critic and a good architect in his own right. To look a little further, Nigel Coates of Branson Coates stands out because not only does he work with bravura and an idiosyncratic style, he also teaches. He works with a passion. He is very commendable.
Sir Norman Foster
Foster and Partners
I ENJOY the variety in architecture, especially in scale. I get equal pleasure from being involved with the design of a desk or door handle as I do in a building or city masterplan. It is always important to remember that architecture is generated by the needs of the people - material needs and spiritual needs - and it is essential to understand those needs in as much depth as possible so research is vital. I admire the most creative professionals whether past or present - they could be architects, engineers, economists, designers, fabricators, entrepreneurs. Perhaps this reflects the fact that architecture is a collaborative endeavour, it is not a private art but in the public eye. Of those working at the moment, I am impressed with Frank Gehry in the US, and Future Systems, in the UK.
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